HomeThe Labor Pillar

The Labor Pillar

Meaningful Work in Community

Each student at Deep Springs works at least 20 hours per week in a position assigned by the student Labor Commissioner, or LC. Everyone plays an integral role in keeping our ranch, farm, garden and kitchen going. The exact list of positions varies with the season, the needs of the College, and the plans of the LC. Common positions include: Cook, Baker, BH (cleaning the dishes), Butcher, Cowboy, Dairy (milking cows), Farm (moving irrigation lines), Garden, General Labor Crew, Mechanic’s Assistant, and Orderly. Most positions last for a term—2 months—though some require a greater time commitment.

Participation in labor is not done in exchange for a Deep Springs education. Rather, the labor pillar is an integral part of that education. The labor program allows students to contemplate their role in a community, to practice working hard, and to foster a sense of ownership and integrity/responsibility. Working with live animals that depend upon routine care gives you an opportunity to engage in work that has high stakes. Serving in a kitchen for such a small community, where everybody knows each other intimately, means that everybody knows who is responsible when a meal is out late.

Farm & Ranch

Deep Springs operates a USDA Certified Organic cattle ranch and 150-acre hay farm. The college sells both hay and beef cattle for a modest income, but the ranch and farm are maintained primarily for educational purposes.

The ranch keeps about 200 head of beef cattle which graze throughout the valley and in the White Mountains. With supervision from the ranch manager, students perform much of the necessary ranch work, from herding cattle to shoeing horses to delivering calves. More than a dozen horses are kept for ranch work and recreation. Students receive training in basic horsemanship, and many take advantage of the opportunity to go on frequent horseback rides.

The hay farm is a large part of the student labor program, owing to the work required to irrigate, harvest, and periodically replant the fields. The farm manager trains students to operate and repair irrigation equipment as well as drive the tractors and harvesting machinery. The college has a fleet of trucks, tractors, and farm implements which are maintained on-site by staff and students.

In addition to the hay and cattle operations, pigs, broiler chickens, and laying hens are raised for consumption at the college. A dairy barn with several cows provides the community with milk. Produce is grown in our one-acre vegetable garden and orchard, and greenhouses extend the growing season into the winter. Students often have the opportunity to tackle special short-term agricultural projects based on their own interests.

Staff

In addition to the faculty, the Deep Springs is home to a dynamic team of staff and their families who work to make this place run smoothly and pedagogically. The staff is housed either on the main ranch or on a tract of land less than a mile north of the college. They do not, however, constitute a distinct group of employees of the college. The staff is most commonly referred to in combination with the faculty and vice versa as “staffulty.” A Deep Springer is likely to find all members of the community at meals, public speaking, and other community events.

One of the key aspects of the labor pillar is the relationship students build with staff members. Staff members act as mentors and managers, often teaching students how to do the labor in question while also ensuring the continued functioning of the labor operation they supervise.

Bios

Tim Gipson

Ranch manager. Tim is responsible for the College’s cattle and horse herds as well as the thousands upon thousands of acres of public land on which the ranch operates. His other duties include student Horsemanship Instructor and mentor of the ranch cowboys. He grew up in Ohio working on farms and moved out west shortly after high school. He has worked on some of the largest ranches in the country and he and his wife ran their own cattle herd in Wyoming for several years. He has been married to his wife Kathryn for 25 years and they have 3 grown boys and one grandson.

Padraic MacLeish

Director of Operations, Mechanic (B.S. Business Administration and Management from Arizona State University, A.S. Automotive Technology from the College of Alameda, Deep Springs class of ’99). Padraic has worked at Deep Springs since 2010 as the Maintenance Manager and currently as Director of Operations and CFO. Padraic enjoys the challenge of helping students master the practical skills that they need in order to take greater ownership of the College.

Shelby MacLeish

Associate Dean of Student Development, Garden Manager (B.S. Biology from Salisbury University; Certificate, Teacher’s College-Admissions, and College Counseling and Master’s (in progress), Student Affairs; Colorado State University. Shelby moved to Deep Springs in 2010. Prior to her work here, she worked in the field of environmental and place-based education. She is passionate about connecting people with the food they eat and promoting learning that is rooted in one’s own place. At Deep Springs Shelby splits her time between home-educating her four children, the garden, and connecting with the students. She sees this as the perfect opportunity to excite Deep Springs students about sustainability, gardening, and science while still getting to bring the kids to work.  When she is not in the garden Shelby loves to explore the Eastern Sierra and go on long road trips with her family. 

Tim McGinnis

Deep Springs ’09, BS Princeton, M.D. expected 2021. Tim returned to Deep Springs in Fall, 2020 as our Boarding House Manager.

John Stuart

Deep Springs ’12, St. John’s College ’20. John returned to Deep Springs in Fall, 2020 to pinch hit in the middle of the pandemic as a seasonal helper on the farm.